A Stop Along The Way
We haven’t always been here but the white walls have, here for those who never wanted to grow up, who weren’t ready to go just yet. Some stay here a long time, some leave within a few days. It’s not really for us to say who stays and who goes. That’s decided by someone else and someone else was still deciding where to put me. We all had a life before this; some had a family, some none at all, family is something we try to forget, I sometimes wonder if mine has forgotten me. I don’t remember much of my life before I came here, I’d like to think it was a happy one; happiness now hard to come by. Not found in a birthday cake or the opening of a Christmas present, how could it be? When time stands still and celebration is spent.
When I first got here I feared the change. Now it leaves me unfazed, it is my home. If I could tell you how long I’d been here I would, but the clock’s hands were ripped off long before my arrival and the year has seeped from my mind. Perched on a bench I cock my head in the direction of a newbie, skin a sickly yellow and hair tied poorly into bunches, I nod my head in her direction, she welcomes my presence with a timid 'hello.' So young and afraid, she hurriedly looks around for her parents, she won’t find them here.
'How are you today?' I politely ask, in a feeble attempt to abate her trepidations.
'I’m feeling much better, thank you,' she replies.
At least her parents taught her manners before she wound up here. I nod my head and walk away. I want to stay and show her the ropes but what good would it do? She needs to find her own way, she could be here a while.
I make my way to what would be the bedroom if it were to possess a bed, although I’ve come to realise why bother to have a bed when no one ever sleeps. Elmer is already there, playing with his wooden yo-yo, he doesn’t even look up. 'Elmer!' No response, I hate when he ignores me. 'Elmer!' Focused on the toy as it bounces up and down, up and down 'Hey Elmer, you should put on a coat, you’ll catch your death.' He meets my gaze then storms out of the room, I laugh heartily at his annoyance. Elmer doesn’t speak, I don’t know if he can’t or he won’t but all I know is Elmer got such a shock when he ended up in this place that a word hasn’t come out of his mouth since. At least that’s what the other kids say, Elmer’s been here a lot longer than me, you see. A lot of the kids are like that, shocked when they end up here. I guess it makes sense; one day you’re sat at home with a loving family then next thing you know you’re here; no parents, no relatives, no nothing, just a bunch of children waiting to be put in a new home.
Rumours go round every so often about where we might wind up, one place sounds nice, one place sounds awful. One thing’s for sure, I ain’t going anywhere anytime soon. At fifteen years old I was lucky to get in here, seems sixteen is the cut off. I don’t know where you go if you’re any older than that, not sure I want to know either. I say the less you know, the happier you are. I make my way to the garden, nothing grows but it’s nice to feel the cold air. It gets awful hot in the home, causing me to take my hat off, the other kids laugh ’cause there isn’t any hair on my head, not that that bothers me anymore, I got used to that a long time ago.
I hear the chorus of three young girls singing yet another round of ring a ring o’ roses. There used to be four of them singing but one left recently, it always got me down when people left but I guess that was the nature of this place, it wasn’t designed to be lived in forever, it’s just a stop along the way.
I saunter back into the home; full of so many other children. It makes me happy to have so much company yet it makes me sad to think the same fate has befallen so many others. I get my iPhone out of my pocket, not that it works here, more an act of ritual from my previous life than anything else. In hindsight I wish I’d brought something else with me, not that you get to choose, you just end up with what was on your person when you were taken. The same goes for your clothes, I hate being stuck in this gown, had I known I would have thought to change. Not that there’s much point thinking about this now, nothing’s gonna be any different just ’cause I wish it. If that were the case there’d be a whole lot of wishing going on around this place.
If the truth be told I always figured I’d end up here, well maybe not here exactly but I knew I wasn’t going to be staying there for too much longer. It was my mother’s tears that had given it away. She’d said I was going to be fine, that I was going to stay with her but the tears told a different story to the one her mouth was telling. My dad told me to stay strong but I could tell he was crumbling inside. And my sister, well I don’t think she knew what was going on, it was for the best, innocent minds shouldn’t have to know the evils of this world. The doctor’s often ignored me, scared to give me answers to my questions. The nurses would feed me drugs as my mother fed me lies. Telling me it’d all be OK, telling me I’d get better any day now. Well at least I’m not sick anymore. None of us are, that’s the one good thing about this place. We might still look it, with balding heads and bust up bodies but we don’t feel it anymore, so I suppose I should be thankful for that. I think I spend more time thinking about the past than I do the future, there’s a certainty in the past that the future can never hold. It was so long ago that I can hardly even remember it now but some memories were built never to be forgotten. The time I walked through the meadow with my mother, the day my parents brought home my new baby sister, eating too much ice cream on my tenth birthday, the day I got told I was sick and lastly the day I died. These were memories I would always keep, no matter where I went next. This is the limbo of Infants and like I said this place isn’t for living. It’s just a stop along the way.
About the Author
Olivia Smith is an aspiring writer in her final year at Salford University, studying English and creative writing. English has been a passion of hers since a very young age and she has contributed to the Cafelit website on several occasions.